In “Escalation”, Treasury's Financial Crimes Unit Will Share Records In Trump-Russia Probe
During his interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt, Donald Trump again pleaded innocent to colluding with Russia and said that “I want to find out if there was a problem with the election having to do with Russia…. If Russia or anybody else is trying to interfere with our elections I think it’s a horrible thing and I want to get to the bottom of it.” He may get this opportunity soon because according to the WSJ the Treasury Department’s unit that specializes in combating money-laundering and financial crimes will share its financial records with the Senate in the expanding probe into possible ties between Russia and President Donald Trump and his team.
The Senate Intelligence Committee requested the records from Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, late last month, the WSJ reports although it did not elaborate on the nature of the records. One person cited by the WSJ said that without them the committee wouldn’t be able to reach a conclusion on whether there was collusion between Trump associates and Russia during last year’s campaign.
Sen. Ron Wyden said in an interview Friday that he is “particularly interested in information about shell companies, money laundering and the use of property transfers that may be germane to the committee’s Trump investigation.”
FinCEN receives hundreds of reports each day from financial institutions flagging suspicious activity, and it is tasked with making sure banks and other companies comply with rules to do so. It provides the data to law-enforcement agencies, and its own analysts examine the data to identify suspicious patterns of the flow of funds around the world. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, for instance, the agency took the lead in tracking terrorist-financing sources and using financial records to help reveal the structure of terrorist networks.
On April 26, Messrs. Burr and Warner requested FinCEN provide the same records obtained by the FBI, which has its own access to the information, in its Russia probe.
According to the WSJ the Senate intelligence panel’s request was made because investigators came across information that led them to inquire about Trump’s business ties.
It marks “an escalation” for the committee’s probe from its original focus on intelligence reports that were used to conclude Russia had meddled in the 2016 elections, as well as documents the committee is seeking from some of Trump’s associates, including his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and his ex-national security adviser, Mike Flynn.
One person familiar with the Senate Intelligence Committee’s request for the records said investigators plan to look at Mr. Trump’s businesses, as well as companies that do business with him, and potentially a step beyond to companies that engage with those firms.
The inquiry could also include businesses owned by or associated with Mr. Trump’s family members, including Kushner Cos., where his son-in-law and now senior White House aide, Jared Kushner, was previously the CEO.
The Russia issue, which largely disappeared from the media landscape one month ago after Trump launched cruise missile attacks on Syria, has resurfaced with a vengeance as a major political issue this past week after Trump fired Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey, a sudden move critics have said was an effort to interfere in the Russia probe.
Earlier in the day, Trump’s lawyers released a two-month-old letter stating that 10 years of his tax returns—which he has refused to disclose—show he has little income, investments or debt from Russian sources, save those items already publicly known. However, “those tax records are unlikely to say much about the complex network of financial transactions and companies that one would expect to find behind any Russian investments in Mr. Trump’s company or his various real-estate ventures, tax experts said.”
“A Russian would not lend directly to Trump or his businesses,” said Steve Rosenthal, a tax lawyer and senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center in Washington. “A Russian would, for example, fund a Cyprus corporation, which would lend to Trump or his businesses, possibly through other intermediary entities.”
In other news, Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA) told MSNBC on Friday afternoon that James Comey would not appear in a closed-door session before the Senate Intel Committee next Tuesday. Comey had been invited by Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and top Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia. Their panel is investigating Russia’s election meddling and allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
The session would have provided Comey a first chance to discuss with lawmakers the circumstances of his firing.
Separately, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has agreed to speak with the committee next week, the date remains to be determined.